Tag Archives: preserving

Last minute presents…

24 Dec

Peppermint creams – 2 cups icing sugar, 1 whisked egg white, 2tsp peppermint essence, green colouring if you like them minty looking too. Roll out using icing sugar for dusting, cut out  (lovely cutters from Kitchens) , and leave to dry for a few hours.

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Mince pies – half a cup of butter, cup of plain flour, pinch of salt, juice and zest of an orange for the pastry. Leave at least 2 hours in the fridge before rolling and cutting out. Just 15 minutes in a medium oven.

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Gingerbread trees. Cut out stars of different sizes from gingerbread dough (secret ingredients – dark brown sugar and black pepper). Layer up using plain icing as glue and leave to dry.

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Ice with thin green icing and add silver baubles. Leave to dry again before dusting with icing sugar and edible glitter.

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Covers and ribbons on the preserves!

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And that’s it!

Happy Christmas everyone! I do hope yours is absolutely wonderful xxx

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Crafty ways to speed up your Christmas countdown

21 Dec

Yes, I like to make stuff at Christmas. I like to give homemade presents. I like to cook for people.

But it helps to have a production line mentality. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t put any thought into what you make or give. More that big batches of gifts allow you to make things more quickly, and be more generous at the same time.

Stephanie Dosen’s brilliant Heartfelt Rings are just lovely, and take less than half an hour from start to finish. So I’ve made at least ten (here are just a few of them).

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Lots of pretty presents to go around, each one slightly different, but made with an identical process that’s easy to memorise and do on auto-pilot while watching Elf for the ninth time.

Eierzucker biscuits take considerably longer…

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You make the dough (icing sugar, eggs and flavouring – in this case lemon zest) and then rest it overnight, roll it out painstakingly (otherwise you will be finding icing sugar in your hair WEEKS later) and leave for another 24 hours to dry, before finally putting the moulded shapes into the oven.

They taste good when you make them, but even better after a couple of weeks (they keep practically forever in a tin). So you make a lot in one go. In this case, 36. They’re such a sweet treat you wouldn’t give away more than two or three per person, so that’s at least a dozen people with a sugary smile on their faces (unless you ‘don’t like sugar’ in which case, you are banned).

Chutney and jam are the same. You make lots, but weeks or months in advance. Come Christmas it’s just a question of labels and covers. I made these in September, so fingers crossed, they’ll taste good now.

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People keep asking me if I’ve ‘done everything’ or if I’m feeling ‘stressed about Christmas’. Honestly. it’s no on both counts. I’ve still got plenty to make with just a few days to go.  But doing lots in advance, and in big batches takes the pressure off, and makes Christmas crafting fun.

Joy to your world! What are you making today?

Homemade Christmas countdown!

1 Dec

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OK, it’s officially December, so at last I am allowed to say the C word. Hurrah!

Last Christmas was the best I’ve had since I was a kid. Because I got to see it through the eyes of my then 2 and a half year old daughter. It was the first Christmas she really started to register what was going on and it reminded me how much fun it is supposed to be. Hurrah!

The fairy outfit and Russian dolls she got on Christmas morning probably helped get things going…

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And there was a lot of festive baking to be done too.

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This year I suspect will be the last before we get the many years of sleepless Christmas Eves, so we are going to treasure every single speck of it.

I’ve been making and giving homemade presents at Christmas since I was a teenager. It started at uni when I had no money, and each year I make more and buy less. The trick is finding pressies that don’t take weeks to create (unless you have oodles of spare time) – otherwise you are swapping the stress of The Shops with sitting up ’til 2am on Christmas Eve finishing socks (been there).

I can’t talk about all of what I’m up to as some of the intended recipients read this blog, but there will definitely be chutney, jam, scarves, biscuits, cakes and more. I’ll talk you through as much of it as I can.

I’ve also got some decorations to sew for the tree, so over the next few weeks, I’ll occasionally pop up with one of those too. There are some great festive makes out there in the interwebs, and Christmas is all about giving, so why not try these for a start…

Candy Cane playdough

Cookie Cutter ornaments

Fabric ‘paper’ chains

OK, let the countdown begin!

Pumpkin Carving Challenge…

26 Oct

My good friend Abby laid down the pumpkin-carving gauntlet after my last post about bread-making.

Well, never one to shy away from a challenge, I ordered my £1 carving pumpkin from Asda (BARGAIN) and set to.


Al and Storm were my instructors, Googling tips for me (plenty online and I’m not giving Abby any help!) and finding me a Hello Kitty-esque design to work on. Ta da!

The not-so-secret forager in me couldn’t resist saving the seeds, which I washed, tossed in olive oil and salt, and roasted on a v low heat while I whittled away. They taste like popcorn, nom, nom nom.

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The bits of pumpkin I managed to salvage went into our weekly roast too. Bonus.

Best of all, Storm thought it was the coolest thing ever. It’ll go on our outside window sill to welcome the trick or treaters on Monday night. I want to make another one already!

Over to you Yabba Dabba…

Autumn’s here. Time for chutney

12 Sep

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I don’t normally ‘cull’ green tomatoes for chutney this early, but the fruit on one of my plants got so heavy that the weight pulled it over (even though it was staked!) and damaged the main stalk so much that the toms started to rot on the vine, so I picked the rest. I could have waited for them to ripen inside, but it’s getter cooler now, and that means it’s time to make the Christmas chutney.

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I washed the fruit, plus the last of our scrumped apples

…and chopped it all up with a couple of onions – I had about 2kg of tomatoes, and 3kg of apples (after coring and peeling).

Added 500g or demerara sugar and 500ml of vinegar – I used up the white wine and cider vinegars at the back of our spice cupboard.

Cooked it for 3 hours on a lowish heat (with lots of stirring in the last hour to stop it sticking and burning), and mashed it up a bit at the end to make it spreadable.

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Then spooned it into sterilised jars – I boil them for a few minutes, but you can do them in the dishwasher too. Added cellophane and labels once it had cooled.

It’ll go in the preserves cupboard now (where it’s cool) and come out at Christmas to play with the ham. There will be pretty homemade fabric covers too for the few I’ll give as presents, but that can wait. For now, it needs to sit in the dark, and get tasty. Mmmmmmmm.

Best chicken stock ever

23 Aug

Chicken stock is like a magic ingredient. I haven’t quite reached the stage as using it as a sauce for ice-cream. But I have thought about it.

Want to make the best chicken stock ever? Here’s how.

First, save up your bones.

It’s far nicer to cook up stock when you feel like it than when you’ve just made a roast, cleared up and frankly, could do with a little sit down and possibly a nap.

So freeze your chicken carcass for (literally) a rainy day, when you can stay home for a few hours and potter while it does its thing.

Leftover bits from drumsticks/ wings are fine too – just keep them all in the freezer.

Normally I make chicken stock because it’s got to the point that I can’t fit anything else in my freezer (it’s not very big). But hey, hopefully you’re more organised than me.

So, feeling like a virtuous cookathon? Then take your chickeny goodies and stick them in the biggest pot you can find. You don’t need to unfreeze them.

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Add:

A few onions – halved. Don’t peel them, but do take off any muddy bits or stringy roots

Carrots, topped and tailed if they’re looking very tired.

Celery. That wilting bit in the back of the fridge is fine.

Bay leaves (if you have them)

Peppercorns.

Any other bits and pieces you think might work.

Add all this to your stock pot along with enough cold water to cover everything.

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Now bring to the boil (with the lid on), turn it down and let it simmer on a medium heat for 3 hours.

Take the lid off and simmer gently for another 3 hours.

Strain the liquid through a colander or large sieve into a smaller pan  – you’ll still have loads at this point.

Simmer on lowest heat until you’ve got about 500ml to 1l. You want to have enough to fill 1 to 2 ice cube trays.

Allow to cool a bit and then pour into ice cube trays. Bung back in the freezer.

That’s it! Amazing chicken stock, with virtually no faff, no messing, and in a very convenient end format. Apologies for the lack of ‘after’ photos. It was dark by the time I finished this time!

Because the stock is so concentrated, 1 or 2 ice cubes will be enough for any meal you want to add it to. Even ice cream…

Blackberry and apple crumble. Thrifty noms.

9 Aug

You may recall I spent a lovely afternoon foraging for apples, blackberries and plums.

Well, you need to find something to do with all that free food!

So, blackberry and apple crumble the easy way…

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(1) Preheat oven to gas mark 4 (medium). Peel and chop apples. Butter a large tray and bung in the apples and blackberries.

(2) Cover with a thin layer of oats, and a thin layer of brown sugar. Be sure to leave some fruit poking through!

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(3) Cube butter into small pieces and spread across the top

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(4) Bake for at least half an hour until the fruit is soft and siizzling. You may need to add more butter half way through to prevent the oats burning.

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(5) Eat. Lots.